Updated: 2016-11-04 07:25
By Sun Yuanqing(China Daily Europe)
As Italian haute couture house looks back at a century of fashion, its Chinese partner prepares for a new lease on life
It is hard to find a family brand with more than 100 years of history, and even harder to pack that history into a four-hour exhibition.
Curiel, the Italian haute couture house, showcased its four-generation history with an exhibition, Curiel - History and Future, at Milan Fashion Week in September.
Based on the theme "Knowing what has been to discover what will be", the exhibition traced the history of the brand and shed light on its future.
Italian haute couture house Curiel recalls its four-generation history at the exhibition Curiel - History and Future during Milan Fashion Week in September. Photos Provided to China Daily
Fashion Connection: Gigliola Curiel (left), Zhao Yizheng and Raffaella Curiel at the Milan event.
It took visitors back to the 1950s and 60s, when Curiel couture dresses were a fixture at La Scala's premieres and other Italian high society gatherings.
The space highlighted works inspired by artists like Jim Dine, Picasso and Klimt, while the "Exoticism" section presented dresses influenced by Asia and Africa.
The "Curiellino" display reinterpreted the brand's classic black dresses in a more contemporary way.
The exhibition was not just about one brand, but a showcase for the history of fashion in Italy, says Giuseppe Silvestrin, director of the exhibition and a veteran fashion event organizer.
"It was not just about seeing the dresses, but how they changed over time in my country. It's like swimming in the history of Made in Italy," he says.
This legacy will soon be available to a wider international audience. Curiel and Chinese luxury management company Redstone formed a joint venture in May.
The Curiel family will supervise the heritage and style of the brand, while Redstone, as the major shareholder, will provide its luxury management expertise and financial muscle to take it global.
Zhao Yizheng, founder and president of Redstone, describes the venture as "having found a diamond in a mountain", and says it is now his duty to "cut it, polish it and make it shine".
Zhao's business model is to seek out small and medium-sized Italian brands, develop them in China and then take them global.
He has tasted success with Giada, an emerging Italian luxury women's brand that now has 59 stores in China and a flagship store on Via Montenapoleone in Milan's central luxury shopping area.
The first Curiel showroom is to open in Milan by the end of this year and the first flagship store will open in Shanghai early next year. This will be followed by stores in New York, Paris and London.
Curiel was founded by Ortensia Curiel in Trieste in northeastern Italy, in the late 19th century, and her niece Gigliola Curiel took the brand to Milan in 1945.
Gigliola's elegant and classic designs became a favorite of Italian high society and Gigliola also became the first Italian designer to grant exclusivity to the stores Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Harrods in London.
Raffaella Curiel, daughter of Gigliola Curiel, joined the business in 1961 and then began running it from her atelier in Corso Matteotti.
She was later joined by her daughter Gigliola, named after her grandmother.
While the brand is secretive about its client list, it is said that US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was once tempted by its products. However, she had to show loyalty to American designers as she became first lady when her husband Bill Clinton entered the White House.
More than 1,000 guests and clients visited the exhibition, including Lamberto Dini, the former Italian prime minister; Beppe Modenese, honorary chairman of the Italian Chamber of Fashion and Mario Boselli, former president of the Italian Fashion Chamber.
Fiorenza Locatelli, a long-time client, says her family has been wearing Curiel since her grandmother's time.
"Curiel is for both young and old. It is something you can wear now and in many years' time," she says.
One of her purchases was a chiffon dress, decorated with flowers, which she wore to the wedding of the Prince of Monaco.
As for Zhao, he is going to take the essence of the brand's haute couture and expand it to five lines, including haute couture, demi-couture, a ready-to-wear line of evening dresses and wedding gowns and the Curiellino line that specializes in little black dresses.
There will also be a Curiel Baby line.
"We wanted to show the essence and history of the brand through this exhibition and share the heritage of Italian fashion with the world," he says.
(China Daily European Weekly 11/04/2016 page19)